You see, I grew up going to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church. While our church's focus was unreached people in Southeast Asia, for some reason I always had Africa in my head. I remember in high school a friend went on a mission with Youth With a Mission to an island somewhere in South America. In that moment I knew I had a call to the nations, but because I was so scared about what it meant, I denied it for years. I would think about what it would mean to be a missionary and inevitably my mind would turn toward Africa. I just thought about the worst case scenario, and to me that meant a place that was most unlike the place I live....and I don't think you can get much further from Western Washington than Africa.
Fast forward a number of years and a restored Erin starts to emerge. I actually start to embrace my love for the nations and I am excited about the what it means to GO....and I do "go" a little. Africa is still hovering on the edges of my mind. This is fueled by a blog I read about a 20-something woman in Africa who adopts orphaned and sick babies in Africa. You can see her blog to the left of my blog titled "The Journey."
The good news is that this dream is looking more and more like a reality. The bad news is that a lot of stuff has to fall into place to make it happen.
Here are the details:
The powers that be with the governing body that runs the zoo finally realized that they were losing people in my job classification right and left. To give a little background, my position classification had been listed as "part time temporary" which meant that I did not have benefits and sick leave and that I could be let go at a moment's notice. Others in my similar classification would get hired and leave once a better paying or benefited job came along. In the two+ years I have worked at the zoo I have seen this happen with three people. This is a pretty high turnover rate for a job that really takes a decent amount of time to figure out. So....this winter it was decided that we would officially be reclassified as "career" employees and be given benefits and a raise. So, as of April 1, I now have benefits and sick leave leave.
This is not the end of the good news. While I am not a "full time" employee, I am a 0.9 employee. This is where I have a choice: I can chose to either work 36 hours per week (which is actually four more than I was working) or I can work 40 hours per week and take five weeks of unpaid leave throughout the year.
Since I have to take time off, my plan is to take the five weeks all at the same time in the fall, which is my least busy time of the year. Since I can do this all at the same time, this will enable me to GO somewhere. Specifically, somewhere in Africa.
I'm looking into orphanages, AIDS houses, a hospital, halfway house for women getting out of prostitution/sex trafficking or something like that. I am exploring my options right now. I have lots of contacts within the continent of Africa, specifically in Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
The hard part of this is going to be raising money to go. I won't be getting a paycheck for those five weeks, but I'll still have bills at home to pay. Additionally, I'll have expenses in Africa to attend to such as flight and maybe even transportation and housing costs while I am there.
However, the thought of going makes me really excited. Just the possibility encourages me in a way I haven't been in a long time, even more than the trip to Turkey last year.
So, stay tuned for updates on all of this! We'll see how it goes!